The Culture Of The Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Ferdinand Bada on October 16 2018 in Society

A woman walks in Virunga National Park, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Editorial credit: LMspencer /

Officially known as the DRC, DR Congo, the Congo, or Congo-Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country located in the central region of the African continent. Formerly, between 1971 and 1997, the country was known as Zaire, which is a name that is still used at times. Belgians colonized the country until independence in 1960. The DRC has an area of about 905,567 square miles and a population of about 78,736,153 people with a diverse range of cultures and customs. The population is made up of more than 200 ethnic groups with most of them being Bantu.

Religions Practiced

A recent survey by the Demographic and Health Surveys shows that Christianity is the dominant religion in the DRC with a following of about 93.7% of the population. Of this figure, Catholic is the most dominant denomination with a following of about 29.7% while Protestants have a share of approximately 26.8% of the Christian population. The remaining Christian population is grouped as other Christian denominations. Aside from Christianity, the survey found that a local religion known as Kimbanguism has a share of 2.8% of the population while Islam only has 1.2%. However, recent estimates are varied as to the share of Christians even though they agree on the dominance of Christianity. For example, the Pew Research Center reports that 95.8% of the population is Christian while the CIA World Factbook reports the Christian share is closer to 80%. Other topics of conflict are the Muslim and indigenous followings although most sources place the estimates from 1-10% and 3-10% respectively. Another religion is the Baha'i Faith, which is a young faith considering that it had been banned until the later period of the 1980s.

The dominance of the Catholic Church in the country is rivaled only by the state. The church has a following of about 35 million people and has educated more than 60% of the population at the primary level and 40% at the secondary level. In addition, the church has several institutions such as hospitals, clinics, farms, and others. With a following of more than 25 million people, the Protestant Church in the country has one of the largest global followings in a single country.


The country has a number of festivals including the worldwide celebrations of Labor Day, New Year’s, and Christmas. However, unlike other countries, Christmas is more religious than it is commercial, which means that gifts are not common on that day. Other country-specific festivals include Marty’s Day on January 4 every year. This day remembers the people who died for justice as well as people who died due to human rights abuse. In the same month, on January 17, the country observes National Heroes’ Day to remember national heroes such as Patrice Lumumba. Independence Day is on June 30.Other festivals include National Liberation Day (May 17), Parent’s Day (August 1), Army Day (November 17), and Youth Day (October 14).


The varied cuisine of the country includes both indigenous and exotic foods. One of the staple foods is the cassava, which is typically served with other foods such as stew. Aside from cassava, the little available land for farming is used to grow foods such as maize, sweet potatoes, rice, several varieties of nuts and peas, and other plants. Most of these foods are national dishes although some regions have unique foods. For export, the chief crops are palm oil and coffee. In addition to crops, people practice livestock farming although the civil war in the region has been unkind to these farmers.

Aside from growing food, it is common for people to hunt wild meat as well as gather food from the wild. Wild foods include things like fish, bushmeat, honey, mushrooms, wild fruits, and other things. Other Congolese foods include ugali, moambe, fufu, loso na madesu, ndakala, mbembe, palm wine, and many more. The national dish is rice and moambe chicken.

Music And Dance

Music is popular in the country including ethnic genres and styles such as merengue and rumba, which came together and formed the famous soukous style. The soukous style has been widely adopted by other nations in Africa leading to the production of some famous African music. Some of the artists using this style sing using the Lingala language, which is one of the country’s national languages.

One of the most popular musicians from the DRC is Papa Wemba who is also known as "le sapeur." Artists like Papa Wemba have set the tone for upcoming musicians from the country who are now following his style of dance and wearing opulent designer clothing. A popular dance style that has been dominant is the “ndombolo” style, which is represented by African greats such as Fally Ipupa and Koffi Olomide. The newer generation of upcoming artists include the likes of Mike Kalambay and Audit Kabangu.


Most Congolese writers write using the national languages of the country, which include French, Lingala, and others. The writers’ main focus is on identity issues of the country from the colonial times to the present. Other topics include the similarities and differences between the different ethnic groups as well the conflict that has been created by modern and traditional ways of life. Some of the more popular authors (including popular poets, novelists, and playwrights) include Paul Lomami-Tshibamba, Mwilambwe Kibawa, Elebe ma Ekonzo, and others. One of the earliest writers is Stefano Kaoze who wrote a French essay titled La Psychologie des Bantu (The Psychology of the Bantu). The essay was written in 1910 although literature caught on in the DRC after the conclusion of World War II in 1945.

Social Beliefs And Etiquettes

The beliefs are mostly traditional although they are gradually changing. For example, the traditional system where people who have clothing that is more opulent receive more respect still applies. For this reason, most Congolese citizens wear clothes that are clean, colorful, and crisp. On the other hand, women prefer longer skirts and avoid pants. However, recent times see more women wearing pants.

Children are expected to show respect to their adults. Elders and leaders get more respect. In addition, regardless of age, greetings are a crucial part and inquiring about each other’s health is important before other things.

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